"Fame, puts you there where things are hollow ..."
-- David Bowie
Slidell artist Blake Boyd seems obsessed with pop culture in general and pop art in particular, especially Andy Warhol, his favorite artist and role model. But, unlike Warhol, who tried to be the invisible wizard behind his own glossy Oz, Boyd often uses his art to dramatize his personal history. For instance, the title of this show, Batman Dracula was taken from a 1964 Warhol film of the same name, but for Boyd it's a metaphor for his own double life as a quiet Slidell hermit who transforms into a flamboyant gay blade in New York City.
Even so, there are only two paintings here that seem to have anything to do with either Batman or Dracula. One is Batman and Superman Have a Conversation, in which the two superheroes, looking unusually gimpy, appear to be having a heart-to-heart dialogue of some sort. The other is Bite, in which a curiously Latino-looking Dracula has just left a couple of telltale incisor marks on the neck of a nubile nude girl in a bunny mask.
The others mostly depict high-key images of nude women (local female artists served as models) wearing Playboy Bunny ears. Why? It seems that from 1961 to 1985, Playboy magazine commissioned Warhol to do close-up Polaroid portraits for their personality profile features. Then, in December 2003, Boyd visited artist Andres Serrano in New York City for the opening of his America exhibition, which included his photograph of Playboy Bunny Deanna Brooks. Because 2003 was also the 50th anniversary of Playboy magazine, and because Serrano had introduced Boyd to several veterans of Warhol's old studio, the Factory, the obscure link between Warhol and Playboy somehow inspired a whole new series.
Still, it's not easy to know what to make of these glossy auto enamel-on-aluminum paintings except to say that they're very polished. (It's hard to imagine anyone, at least around here, putting more sheer effort into artifice than Boyd.) It's all very campy, with the Bunnies looking more like comic strip characters than the cute human accessories that Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner had in mind. Brooke is a redhead arranging her hair under a pair of big, pink-and-white bunny ears, and her demure, pensive expression suggests that she's waiting for something to happen. If this were TV, she'd be getting ready for a date, awaiting the arrival of some well-tanned guy with great teeth, but here she wears only a velvety black choker and nothing else. Audra reveals a bunny woman in the midst of some unknown drama, as is also the case in Lisa, while another bunny, Marianne, is wearing a ball gag, and here the story line is very much up to the individual viewer. A video depicting Boyd's encounters with New York cafe society -- with an actor portraying Boyd -- rambles vapidly in the background. As usual, all of this is even more convoluted than it is entertaining. As an artist, Boyd has had his moments, but it's not exactly clear if this is one of them.
After so much celebrity-obsessed hocus-pocus and role-bending ambiguity, Pat McDonald Fowler's Feminine Mystique show at The Waiting Room should come as a breath of fresh air, which in some ways it is. Unlike Boyd, who avoids sincerity like the plague, Fowler offers up accessible "portraits of contemporary New Orleans women," that she says "reflect on the issues of modern feminism and the place of women in the 21st century." Be that as it may, what comes through is a rapport that we assume must exist between artist and subject to have yielded such friendly looking figures rendered softly and rather naively in colorful acrylics. Indeed, these women of various ages and races all seem like nice folks. And "folksy" may in fact be the most apt metaphor here, for Fowler's technical abilities are reminiscent of folk art and may lag a bit behind the vivacity that these paintings suggest. Technically and psychically, they convey the warm and fuzzy surfaces of the outer persona, and it's almost like walking into a gathering where everyone projects a pointedly warm and charming facade, and where everyone is too polite to probe too deeply.
- Blake Boyd's Brooke, a Playboy Bunny looking for something to happen, is part of the Batman Dracula exhibition now on display at Arthur Roger Gallery.